During the women’s session of the October 2018 Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Russell M. Nelson put out a plea to the sisters of the church.

“My dear sisters, we need you! We need your strength, your conversion, your conviction, your ability to lead, your wisdom, and your voices,’” Nelson said. “We simply cannot gather Israel without you.

“No one can do what a righteous woman can do,” Nelson added.

On Monday, Project Elect: Women in Public Service was launched.

Project Elect is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with the primary goal of supporting women members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as they seek public office, according to a press release.

The Church Communications Department was contacted for a response but it also just had received a copy of the release talking about the organization and were not prepared to respond.

Recognizing that the experiences and perspectives of women of faith are not being adequately represented in local, state and national politics, Project Elect will recruit and encourage women Latter-day Saints as they campaign for and participate in public service.

Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi said she is excited to hear about the organization and its goals.

“I love it. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this,” Kaufusi said.

Kaufusi said that women will often ask “Why me?” because they are taught to be home nurturing their kids.

“What we really need is someone who gets pushed to the front, humbly and can take the bows and arrows that come with an office,” Kaufusi said.

Kaufusi added, “We need women who can lead out with confidence where they can.”

She noted that every day she is in meetings where she is the only woman in the meeting and she listens and adds a whole different touch to the discussion. She added that women come with a whole different view and skillset that is powerful.

According to Sarah Brinton, communications board member, “We’re interested in women who have run before, whether they have won or lost, that could be mentors. Women who are interested in volunteering and helping campaign on the local, state or federal level.”

Brinton said the organization has been working on building a data base of women from all states that have run, from dog catcher to Congress, or who have the energy and skillset to do so.

“Project Elect is unique in its focus on developing political candidates from among the deep bench of Latter-day Saint women qualified for public service,” Brinton said.“ Project Elect is a nonpartisan organization and will help women across the political spectrum.”

Project Elect believes that having more Latter-day Saint women run for office will help solve our nation’s most intransigent problems.

“Most women members of the church already know about their communities’ problems and have ideas on how to solve them,” said Audrey Perry Martin, founder and CEO of Project Elect. “Women Latter-day Saints have deep networks and the experience and skills they need to be incredible elected officials. They really are ideal candidates; they just might need a push to recognize that fact.”

Among the many organizations helping women run for political office, Project Elect is uniquely poised to address the barriers that prevent Latter-day Saint women from seeing themselves as eligible for public office. These barriers can include time-intensive church and community volunteer roles, demanding family obligations, and unexamined assumptions about what makes someone “qualified” to run for office, according to Brinton.

Project Elect seeks to gather women of the church to, first, educate members about the importance of women’s involvement in public service; second, encourage and recruit each other to run for public office; and third, support each other in campaigning for and participating in public service, according to Brinton.

Project Elect is launching several programs to accomplish its mission:

  • A mentorship program where experienced campaigners can connect with women who are considering a run for office.

Speaking of the power of mentorship, Rachelle Price, an elected School Board Trustee in Rocklin, California, said, “While running my first campaign, I made a phone call to a mentor who had fundraising experience. This conversation and her advice was a complete game changer for me and gave me the confidence to fundraise. I no longer felt overwhelmed as she gave me some ideas and helped me develop a plan. Her confidence seemed to rub off onto me. I will forever be grateful!” https://projectelectwomen.org/mentor/.

  • A volunteer program that matches potential candidates with willing campaign volunteers. https://projectelectwomen.org/volunteer/.
  • Candidate recruiting tools, including a form that allows individuals to send a digital certificate to a woman they know that, first, identifies the skills that that woman has developed while serving in the church; and, second, “declares” her qualified to run for public office. In this way, people can easily reach out and encourage the women Latter-day Saints they know to run. https://projectelectwomen.org/certificate.

“Once women take the first leap, I don’t think they’ll regret it,” Kaufusi said. “I’m more energized than ever.”

Hush the fear and fight for the underdog and acknowledge that we are really good at talking ourselves out of it, Kaufusi added.

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801) 344-2910, Twitter @gpugmire

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